Pan breads are quick and easy to make, adding a great element to your camping menus. Photo: Amanda Quaine
How to make garlic pan bread on a campfire was something I needed to find the answer to. Or, at least, I wanted to work out how to make a good garlic pan bread on the campfire.
I was working from first principles and had only basic ingredients available.
When we undertook a journey on the Bloodvein river in 2014, we had a number of pre-packed fry pan bread mixes from Cache Lake amongst the food packed for the 14-day journey.
In 2015, we returned to Canada for another journey on this wonderful river system. We were disappointed to discover, however, that the Cache Lake fry pan breads were no longer available from the outfitter. Something to do with import or food regulations he told us.
The previous year, these pan breads had become a firm favourite and part of our daily routine. We’d set up camp, get a fire going, get the kettle on and, while the kettle was boiling, make up a mix of pan bread. This would then be cooked off and we’d have a piece of tasty, somewhat greasy, pan bread with our pint mugs of tea before cooking dinner proper.
At the end of a day’s paddling, this combo of bread and tea was a good way to perk ourselves up. It started the process of getting fluid, carbs and fat back into our bodies. It became part of our daily routine. On the days when we were particularly weary – after a long distance or working into a headwind for most of the day – the pep up our brew and bread provided was significant.
With renewed energy, we could then get on with sourcing and splitting more firewood, preparing ingredients and cooking dinner, discussing the plans for the next day, and so on.
So, with the absence of the pan bread mixes but plenty of flour, baking powder and a variety of herbs and spices in our wanigan, I set about making an equivalent to our favourite from scratch.
After a few goes, not all of which proved as successful as I would have hoped, I arrived at a formula for making a garlic pan bread that worked. And it worked consistently. Some might even call it a recipe.
This quickly became a favourite and the speed of production decreased dramatically. We most often had it as a snack, not long after arriving at our camp but sometimes it was saved to accompany our main evening meal.
Below is my recipe for garlic pan bread over a campfire. The photos were taken one evening during the 2015 Bloodvein river trip.
Making A Garlic Pan Bread
First, the ingredients you need, from top left to bottom right – garlic powder, basil, black pepper, salt, olive oil, baking powder and flour. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Pour six good handfuls of flour into the mixing pot. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Add two healthy palmfulls of garlic powder. This is garlic bread after all… Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Add about a teaspoon of salt. Photo: Amanda Quaine
Add a good shake of dried basil. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Add a good palmful of baking powder. Photo: Amanda Quaine
That’s all the dried ingredients in the mixing bowl. Make sure you’ve added them all before you add any water. Photo: Amanda Quaine
Next, mix all the dried ingredients so that each is evenly distributed in the dry mixture. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Make a bit of a well in the centre of the dry mix and add some water – only a small amount to start with. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Start to mix and make a dough. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Once the flour and initial water is as consolidated as possible, add some more water. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Again mix in the water. The aim is to achieve a good, solid dough. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Keep mixing! Photo: Amanda Quaine
This is getting there but still a little dry. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Adding just a touch more water. It really doesn’t need much now. If on the other hand, the mixture had been a little too wet in the previous photo, we could add a dusting of flour at this stage to dry it a little. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
This is looking good. Solid, not too sticky and ready for the pan… Photo: Amanda Quaine.
This type of bread is effectively fried in the pan, so set your fire lay accordingly. Photo: Amanda Quaine
Set the pan over the fire and add some oil. Don’t get it too hot. The olive oil will add great flavour to the bread. Photo: Amanda Quaine
Put a little bit of dough in the oil and wait for it to start sizzling. Photo: Amanda Quaine
Once the dough is sizzling, take the pan off the fire and set it down on a flat, stable surface (usually, the ground works just fine). Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Now add the dough to the hot oil in the pan. Be careful not to burn yourself – remember the pan and the oil are hot. Photo: Amanda Quaine
Squash the dough down flatter and wider. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Once the dough has been flattened as much as needed, then bring some of the hot oil up on top of the dough. This helps to start cooking the bread, prepares it for being flipped and adds flavour. Photo: Amanda Quaine
Put the pan back onto the heat. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Keep pushing the dough down into the oil and bringing oil up on top if you can. Also, rotate the bread within the pan, as there will undoubtedly be hot-spots in the fire, which mean some parts of the base of the bread will cook more quickly than others. You don’t want to burn it. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
As well as rotating the bread within the pan, regularly check the underside to make sure it is not cooking too quickly or even burning. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
When the bottom is browned off nicely, flip the bread and cook it on the other side too. Photo: Amanda Quaine
Once both sides are browned, turn the bread back to the first side again. The fire will have died down a bit now and you can make sure the bread is cooked through. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
This bread is looking good now and I’m just finishing heating it through. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Remember to keep rotating the bread in the pan as well as checking the underside. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Once the bread is ready, take the pan off the fire. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Sprinkle some more basil on the top of the bread. Photo: Amanda Quaine
Looking good and ready to eat. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
When on trips, where everyone is working hard and inevitably hungry at the end of the day, it’s important to share food out fairly, so rather than people just pulling chunks of bread off, I prefer to divide it up more geometrically… Photo: Amanda Quaine.
You can see the bread is still a bit doughy in the middle but served warm this works really well. It’s quick to make and a very tasty starter or accompaniment to the main meal. Photo: Amanda Quaine
Pan Breads – Quick, Easy and Tasty
Pan breads of this type are quick and easy to make, adding a great element to your camping menus. The are delicious, punching above their weight in terms of flavour. They are also both filling and calorific, providing not just carbohydrates but also fats, as well as replacing salt.
The garlic pan bread proved a firm favourite on our canoe journey. I’ll definitely be making them again on future trips.
Let me and other readers know about your most memorable improvised culinary creation while on a trip in the comments below…
Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog:
Medicinal Use Of Balsam Fir For Cuts, Grazes & Sores
Six Men, Three Boats and The Bloodvein: Canoeing A Wilderness River
How To Pack Enough Food For A Week In A PLCE Side Pocket
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Paul Kirtley is an award-winning professional bushcraft instructor. He is passionate about nature and wilderness travel. In addition to writing this blog Paul owns and runs Frontier Bushcraft
, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions.